International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Middle age ceramics complex of Ust-Vfsjegan fortress (2013-2015).

I.Yu. Chikunova

Institute of the North Development, SB RAS, Tyumen




In the course of Ust-Vasjegan 1 hillfort (North Ob region) excavations unique materials were obtained which complemented the existing information about the ancient history and the processes of colonization of the North Ob territories in various historical periods. The team studied the production and residential complex consisting of three structures one of which was used for household works, fish scaling, and cooking; the second one  - for sleep and rest; and the third - for production purposes. The complex belonged to one family/household. The evidences of this were the very close proximity of the structures, the common bunding, fragments of the same pots found in all structures.

The period of the hillfort's existence according to С14 dates was the 9th-11th centuries.

It was more difficult to determine the cultural attribution, since the ceramics complex despite the combination of many different traits of the southern and the western Middle Age cultures had its own vividly manifested individuality.

The ceramic collection of the Middle Age period consisted of slightly over 1,000 sherds of 130 vessels.

The upper part of the vessels was decorated with a round pits belt along the rim, sometimes on a clear background framed with slanted or horizontal imprints of comb stamp, forming in this way a basis for numerous variations of the complex ornamentation.

Visual analysis of the compositions of the whole complex obtained over a three year period of study made it possible to identify two distinctive groups: 1 - with simple lean composition consisting of a pits belt and 1-2 rows of indented comb impressions.   The ornamental compositions were simple and strictly zonal (Fig. 1). Group 2 was more "festive". Based practically always on the same underlying composition (indented comb impressions along the rim and the pits belt) they were decorated with impressions of V-shaped, cross stamp, the “ducks”, sometimes in various combinations.  A characteristic feature of this group was the use of cord imprints as ornamental zones separators  (Fig 2.). Shreds of vessels from  both groups  were deposited together in the excavation.

The technico-technological analysis of the identified groups led to a conclusion that in their manufacturing mostly the  low sand content clays were used. The molding mixture composition always contained gruss. A traditional molding mixture recipe for group 1 consisted of "clay + gruss" (80%), for group 2 - "clay + chamotte + organic solution" (80%). Some differences were noted at surface treatment stage - different tools were used. The first group vessels' surface was most often smoothed with wood chips. The second group vessels were smoothed with wooden spatulas and soft materials, sometimes compacted. No particular differences in baking practices were recorded, it was done in simple fire pits or fireplaces with short time curing at temperatures of at least 650º С.

Apparently the ornamental and the technico-technological differences between the ceramics complex groups were related to the functional purpose of the pottery or, possibly, other reasons.

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